One day after flu-like symptoms sidelined Tommy Lemons, Jr. from practicing his Late Model Stock Car at Caraway Speedway, the Troy, North Carolina driver earned his second victory of the 2016 season.
Lemons pushed early leader Travis Swaim as hard as he could throughout the first half of Sunday’s season-opening 150-lap race at Caraway Speedway. After engine trouble for Swaim and some hard racing with Myatt Snider for the top spot, it was Lemons who scored the win at the Sophia, North Carolina short track.
For the first time, the Late Model Stocks would have to incorporate a live pit stop into their strategy for the 150-lap main event. That pit stop almost cost Lemons a shot at the win after entering pit road on lap 65 in second. Another car kept Lemons blocked from his pit stall and after work on his No. 27 was completed he found himself back in the eighth position.
“I had a little bit of an incident down there on pit road,” Lemons told the crowd after the race, “Rookie driver there I guess.”
Lemons contemplated bringing in experienced tire changers for the race, but decided against it. In the end that decision proved to be the right one.
“There were thoughts of bringing in some ringers.” Lemons said of his pit strategy, “We just decided not to. We figured if we lost a spot or two, the fast cars would come back to the front by the end of the race.”
After working back to the front it turned into a three-car race up front between Swaim, Lemons and Snider. Swaim got shuffled back to third before dropping out with a problem under the hood.
A later restart put Lemons and Snider side-by-side up front. They remained that way for several laps with Snider pulling a crossover move and seeming to take the lead before another caution bunched them back up.
It was more of the same on the restart with Snider finally securing the spot. Less than a lap later Lemons, still applying constant pressure, made contact with Snider’s rear bumper in turn one and Snider went around. A ‘racing incident’ was the official call and Snider was forced to start at the rear of the field while Lemons retained the lead.
From there, Lemons went unchallenged and pulled away from the rest of the field to win the first race of 2016 at Caraway.
“It’s awesome to be back in victory lane here at Caraway,” he said. “It’s only twenty minutes from my house so all my family can come out here and my friends can come out and watch.”
As for the flu that sidelined him from practicing his car on Saturday and how he was feeling today, Lemons summed it up quite simply by saying, “Winning solves everything.”
The next event for the Late Model Stocks at Caraway will be another 150-lap event on Saturday, March 26.
-By Mark Keeler, Speed51.com Deep South Editor – Twitter: @MarkKeeler975
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Late Model Stock Car 150 Unofficial Results
March 6, 2016 – Caraway Speedway (NC)